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Uyuni salt flats



3 days





Zuzka Greizinger


I’m a stewardess, but I used to be an editor for a magazine, so I always have had my head in the clouds. In addition, I’ve always been attracted by the heights and distances and so I came up with a great idea – I could explore the world as a flight attendant! 🙂



Back in the days traveling was about learning new cultures or enjoying nature but nowadays it is more about scoreboard, chasing the best locations for the best pictures or at least to tick off another destination from the bucket list. I won’t lie, I wanted to go to Bolivia for the same reason like the most of you – to check Uyuni Salt flats and get there those surreal pictures of the biggest natural mirror of the world with a reflection of the sky when it looks like in the heaven. Well, it didn’t work out exactly that way. Instead, I have proper travel experience… which is even better!

Imagine three-days-trip in car from Chile to Salar de Uyuni. Three days just with one guide-slash-driver and three strangers – backpackers from France and Spain who soon become our friends. Three days without shower, sleeping in simple hostels, all together in one room. Three days of eating under the sky. Three days without any connection to civilization. Three days of being dirty, stinky but sooo happy! Three days across the landscapes which take your breath away, and not only due to altitude of 4000 m.a.s.l.! Shortly, this is our trip to Bolivia about! 


Timing is everything

Salt flats of Uyuni is breathtaking experience any time of the year but if you are coming here just for those instagrammable pictures with mirror reflection, the right timing is a must. Google will tell you that the rainy season in Bolivia occurs from December to March. But putting this information into practice means that December might be still too dry at Salt flats, and no water means no mirror reflection, while January is too wet and so dangerous to drive around. If you want to be sure you find some water sticking on the salt surface before it evaporates, come in February or March. And count with high demand and lots of other tourists. We chose the end of the November because I don’t really like to travel in high season and from my experience, months very near the high season are usually the best. But my theory apparently doesn’t work in Bolivia! It’s the end of November and we didn’t see not even single mini puddle. I’ve also heard about the girl who found the reflective flats also in the end of September. Lucky one! It all depends on the weather and your guide-slash-driver, how well he knows the area. 

Why you need to start in Chile

Our trip to salt flats actually starts in Chile, in the town of San Pedro de Atacama. San Pedro de Atacama is a small town in the desert in the northern part of Chile but due to its great location near Bolivian borders and national reserve it is a starting line for all the trips to Bolivian salt flats. Actually, I would say, 50 % of all trips to Bolivia start in San Pedro de Atacama, while the other 50 % start in Uyuni but they finish in San Pedro de Atacama. Of course, there is still a small amount of short day trips JUST to salt flats starting and finishing in Uyuni but if you go for this kind of trips, you will miss beautiful flamingos, lagoons, geysers, hot springs and other breath taking landscapes along the way. Don’t do that! 

How to get to San Pedro de Atacama

I’ll tell you the easiest and most comfortable way. Our way. We are arriving to Chile mainland from Easter Island. Our flight is landing at the international airport in the capital city – Santiago de Chile. Our plan is to visit Mano del Desierto (Hand of the Desert) which is large-scale sculpture of a hand in the Atacama desert, about 60 km to the south of the city of Antofagasta. It is just a sculpture of hand in the desert but it looks great on pictures (and Instagram). Unfortunately after our arrival from Easter Island we are about to find out that Atacama is a large area and Antofagasta in not that close to San Pedro de Atacama as we thought. Our time is limited (again), we are freaking tired and connections are not the best. I have a short nap on the airport floor, while my friend Bill is checking the other options. Finally we will decide to forget about the one picture of hand and book another domestic flight with Latam airlines do Calama city and the nearest airport to San Pedro de Atacama. There are several shuttle services from Calama airport to San Pedro de Atacama. No need to book in advance – they have a booking desk at the airport next to the car rental desks as you come out from baggage claim. The return journey cost 24000 pesos ($40) per person which I think it’s worth it. It’s 90 km or 1,5 h of drive and the shuttle will drop you in front of your hotel or hostel. Therefore it is a way easier than taking a taxi from the airport to bus station, then taking bus and then another taxi to the centre of town. Shuttle transfer runs every four hours. We will pay just for one way ticket – as we plan to stay in Bolivia – with Transvip company which has good reviews.

One day in the town of backpackers

It is still early morning when our shuttle drop us in front of our hostel we booked in last minute. Still far to check-in hours but they have a room with private bathroom available so they let us have some rest. Around midday we are ready to go to the city centre to find some good travel company for our trip to salt flats. The thing is San Pedro de Atacama is the town in the desert and it is very hot around midday. We have no choice, tomorrow we want to leave for Bolivia, so we have to book a trip. We are visiting one agency by another and they all are offering the same three days trip itinerary for almost the same price (around $200). Just one company promises accommodation in better hostels with little bit better facilities. (Most of the agencies were telling us that the first night we would sleep in one simple room together with other tourists and without any shower.) I can’t remember the name of the agency (I think they have something with flamingos in the name) as I lost all the notes with my diary. The best way how to find the most suitable one for you, it’s just go personally check their offer. The most important question for me is: “Will we see a mirror reflection at salts flats?” Answer is in every single agency same and very straight: “Definitely not, it has been too dry…” ): Many of these travel agencies will accept your dollars but later you will need some Bolivian pesos in cash and San Pedro de Atacama is your last option to exchange the money. On the way to exchange office we are stopped by one restaurant caller. He promises us a four course lunch menu with chilean wine just for a few bugs so we are sold straight away. Later we are served great chilean ceviche, vegetable soup, fish and a fruit cake. We want to try both, white and red Chilean wines and both are delicious! It is true what they said about Chilean wine. In the restaurant they promise us to give us free Pisco sour cocktails if we come later for a dinner. Afternoon nap under the air-condition is following and then we are back in the town. It has wild-wild-west vibes and it’s packed with backpackers coming here for trips to Bolivia and flamingo lagoons. Even the shops and hostels are mostly backpackers oriented. After the sunset is not so hot outside any more and the town comes alive… Cheers to our next trip! (With local Pisco sour drinks of course!)


At the borders with Bolivia

At six in the morning we are already sitting in minivan together with other tourists – and because the world is small, behind us are sitting three crazy guys from Czech Republic – and we’re leaving Chile for Bolivia. Soon we are at the borders. In front of us stands small cabin, serving as a passport control office, surrounded by deserted country. Parking lot is full of vans and 4×4 cars and there is long queue of tourists in front of passport control. We are still in the desert but it’s pretty early in the morning, altitude is high and outside is really chilly. Czech backpackers are soon changing their shorts and T-shirts for hoodie and jeans. When we are coming back to the car with our stamped passports in the pockets, small breakfast buffet is ready. On the small foldable table is jamon, cheese, honey, butter, Nutella, boiled eggs, avocado smash, bread, fruit, coca tea, hot chocolate and coffee. Quite rich breakfast in these simple conditions. Hot chocolate is a good idea to warm up. Straight after breakfast we are divided to smaller groups and handed to Bolivian hands. Me and Bill will end up in 4×4 car with two girls – students from Spain, one solo French backpacker who can barely speak any language apart from French and our driver/guide Roger with very poor English. But thanks god Spanish girls turn out to very good translators for all of us. Here we go, my new family and the only faces I will see for the next three days… 

Nothing behind me, everything ahead of me as is ever so on the road…

Lagoons and Flamingos Nature Reserve

Our first stop after a long drive through deserted country is breathtaking La Laguna Blanca and La Laguna Verde. The first one is really white and the second aquamarine green. So far we don’t see any flamingos but the landscape itself is charming. Like some aquarelle paintings. We get some time to admire the surroundings and take plenty of pictures, then we have to go back to our car. In car we spend most of the time. No service on our cell phones, no civilization, no wi-fi, only one long off road. 

Hot springs and first flamingos spotted!

Termas de Polques. Águas termales. Second stop is fun! Healing hot springs with unforgettable view of flamingos bathing and fishing in lagoon in distance. Here you need those pesos in cash you should have exchanged in San Pedro de Atacama. Hot springs belong to Lagoons and Flamingos Nature Reserve admission fee but if you want to use toilette or changing room to change into swimwear, you need some coins. Enjoy your bath properly, because this is the only hot water you will see in next couple of days. 🙂 

Geyser Sol de Manana 

Third stop is the sulphuric geyser. Landscape around looks even more surreal than the ones we have seen so far. Geyser is basically smelly hot steam coming out of the ground and around are many pools and puddles of unbelievable colors, especially red. Somebody could say it looks like a hell but I think this place is too beautiful for a hell. 

La Laguna Colorada

Las stop of the day is an amazing lagoon of red color! Flamingos are now way closer to us than before at hot springs. I wish I had some rubber boots so I could jump into shallow waters and get even closer to them. My nose is turning as red as the lagoon in front of me from the strong sun and even stronger wind. We have just reached the altitude of 4300 m.a.s.l.! Even to climb a small hill is now a challenge. Breathing difficulty is a real big deal here. On the top of that I feel like the wind could easily blow me away in any second. I’m just wondering how these pink birds on their tiny legs can remain so stable and balanced… 

First night

Before the sunset we are parking in front of the simple hostel. Guys are sleeping in one room, girls in another. We can have a shower outside, there should be enough water if none of us extend their 5 minutes. But because hot water is not available and our beds don’t seem like they mind bit of dust and sand, none of us will use this 5 minutes of luxury. Due to lack of oxygen in high altitude we all feel too tired, some of us suffer from a slight headache. No wonder that after simple dinner all of us fell asleep like babies… On trips like this, far far away from civilization, I always remember our childhood. Every summer me and my sister used to spend our holiday at our grandparents and our grandpa used to take us to the forest where we were learning how to survive in nature. We were warming up by fire, washing ourselves in chilly creek, sleeping under the stars or searching for buried pirate treasure! Thanks to this education I’m now a woman who doesn’t need a big luggage full of unnecessary outfits & cosmetics and I don’t mind to sleep in simple conditions together with beetles. 

Day 2: rock formations, canyons and lamas

For the second day of our trip itinerary is different. Altitude is still high but less than yesterday, weather is way warmer and country around more dry. We can leave are warm sweaters in the car and go admiring amazing rock formations and canyons. There, among the rocks we will almost get lost because we didn’t understand our driver where we are supposed to go and he left. Thanks god later we will recognize some cars in the distance. Yesterday we met lots of flamingos, today are on our way lots of wild (not domesticated) lamas, alpacas and vicunas (Nope, I still can’t tell you the difference between them.) Our second last stop of the day is beautiful lagoon La Laguna Negra which means black and it really is!

Train Cemetery

I forgot to tell you. Today is 25th November and it’s my 34th birthday. I’m tired, dirty, sweating but I couldn’t wish for a better birthday gift than this amazing three days trip. And it costs me only $200! Afternoon, after three days in pure nature we’ve just reached some sort of civilization! Just outside the city of Uyuni there is train cemetery – open air museum of rusted out relics from when railway and mining was a big business in the region. Near the end of 19th century British engineers came to the country with the Antofagasta and Bolivia Railway Company, which was building a railroad to carry minerals. But in the 40’s mining went into serious decline as resources began to run dry. Railway company abandoned the region and left these husks to rust in the high altitude desert. Nowadays dozen of trains are scattered around the area. As the place serves as a museum for tourists nowadays there are several small shops with refreshment and we have chance to try fantastic local beers made of coca leaves or cactus! In one shop they even sell wifi voucher so I can check my birthday wishes from my friends!

Birthday night

For the night we are going to stay in a hostel which has walls made of salt! And guess what, there is only one bathroom for all building but there is hot water for everybody! For a little extra charge, of course. I can finally make myself look like a human. I even carry a small travel hair dryer but I’m not allowed to use it as it takes lot of energy and we didn’t count with another extra charges. After a simple but delicious local dinner my new travel friends will surprise me with a little cake with candle and our kind guide Roger even brings a bottle of Bolivian wine (Kohlberg, Tinto Clasico, 2017) to the table. I couldn’t wish for a better birthday party!

Sunrise at salt flats

Sleeping in clean sheets is great but not very long. We have to wake-up in the middle of the night so we can watch the sunrise over salt flats. And there is a special place for this little ceremony – Isla Incahuasi a.k.a. Cactus Island. I’m telling my friend: we have cactus, we have salt all around, just bring some lemon, I’ll get tequila and we can have Tequila Sunrise Party! 🙂 Even though there are lot of cars with tourists parking down the cactus hill, no one has tequila. Never mind, it is a great sunrise party anyway. When the sun is fully on the horizon we get back to our car and Roger has already prepared breakfast picnic for us! Amazing! Nobody minds it’s freaking cold outside, fresh air gives to the food another flavor. 

12 thousand square kilometers of salt flats

I made a peace with the fact we won’t see any mirror reflection. Weather is sunny, the sky is super clear and everywhere around us is only salt. Not desert, not beach, but salt. Edible salt. So you better like it salty. 🙂 Twelve thousand square kilometers of salt! (It’s big like Libanon, for example.) In altitude of 3600 m.a.s.l.! And we are told that the salt crust covering the ground has few meters and extraordinary flatness with the average elevations variations within one meter over the entire area. The crust serves as a source of salt and covers a pool of brine which is exceptionally rich in lithium. It contains 50% to 70% of the world’s known lithium reserves. What a natural wonder, right? The large area, clear sky and exceptional flatness of the surface make the Solar ideal for calibrating the altimeters of Earth observation satellites. Following rain, a thin layer of dead calm water transforms the flat into the world’s largest mirror. Not our concern today, unfortunately. Even though I’ve seen too many tourists at the cactus island, after few minutes of driving across the flats we don’t see any single soul. Salar de Uyuni was used as a filming location for the 2017 film Star Wars: The Last Jedi for planet Crait. And we are going to use it for some Hollywood shots on budget. 🙂

Salt Hotel Museum and Dakar

When we are done with shooting, we are heading to the first hotel completely made of pure salt. Nowadays serves only as a museum. Nearby there is also Dakar monument. Bolivia welcomed Dakar rally competitors for the first time in 2014 and for the stretch of the race offered motorbike riders an unique opportunity to discover the outstanding beauty of the Solar de Uyuni.

From Uyuni to La Paz by comfort bus 

And our unforgettable trip is coming to the end. Roger will drop us in front of the office in Uyuni where they allow us to use their wifi (finally), check the messages, do some small research and necessary bookings like to book the night comfort bus from Uyuni to La Paz. Journey by bus will take 10 hours, but it’s kind of easier than taking a flight which is always full. The bus line also has similar service than the one on board of the plane in business class with attending steward and comfort, fully declinable seats. No telling how much cheaper it is! We are lucky that the bus terminal is just few blocks from the office and the agency let us stay inside till closing hours which fit with our night departure. We are not going to be homeless for too long… 

Dirty La Paz

Why do we need to go to La Paz? It’s the capital city with an international airport and several connections. Our vacation is coming to the end but we still have some time left. And my mum – a big fan of books about aliens, mysteries and conspiracies would never forgive me being in Bolivia and not visiting Tiwanaku. We will arrive to La Paz bus station early in the morning and we book the cheap scary looking old hotel just across the station. We have paid even for the night before so we can check-in straight after our arrival and have some rest in proper bad. Our bus to Tiwanaku leaves at 9 am…

What is Tiwanaku 

In Tiwanaku there is Tiahuanacu, ruined ancient city near Lake Titicaca at an altitude of 3850 m.a.s.l. Today it has been designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Dominating the ruins, once the seat of the pre-Columbian Tiwanaku culture, are the Akapana pyramid and a semi-subterranean temple with carved images of human heads, which strangely resemble people from different cultures across the globe. Nearby Kalasasaya is an open temple with stone monoliths and the huge Gate of Sun arch. The Museo del Sito de Tiwanaku displays artifacts excavated from the site giving more questions than answers. Till nowadays no scientist can explain them, so one of the strongest theories goes to aliens… You don’t believe? Stay with me, I’ll tell you more. 

How to get there

Tiwanaku is located about two hours away from the La Paz. Tickets Bolivia is the first Bolivian company selling online tickets from La Paz to Tiwanaku with the most comfortable bus companies. The ticket includes the tour with a professional English speaking guide, lunch and the ticket back to La Paz in the afternoon. The buses leave every day at 9:00 am from the bus terminal of La Paz and they arrive in Tiwanaku at 11:00 am. Another option is more complicated and not really cheaper: Get to cementario by taxi. From cementario it’s about two blocks to Calle Eyzaguire from where microbuses can be found that go to Tiwanaku. Once there, you have to start at sitio #1 where you can also buy the tickets for BS 80 for foreigners. I’m glad we have taken the first option and we have a guide ready to point out the most interesting things and reply on all our questions, even though his answer is often: “There is no scientific explanation, we don’t know…”

Following Aliens

In the museum we see skulls of weird shapes. The back brain part doesn’t really look human with its longer and bigger size. They say Tiahuanacu people were deforming their skull since babies. With this method you would maybe get the different shape but would your brain get bigger? I don’t think so! Were these people deforming their skulls because they wanted to look like their way smarter visitors from the stars? We don’t know. Then there are basements of pyramids similar to those in Egypt and what about the temple with one underground room full of faces? After digital reconstruction they say that faces have features of Asians, black African, Arabs or Western people. Same clay sculptures were found, you can admire their features preciseness in the museum. But how these simple pre-Columbian people even know how the people in different corners of the world look like? After the lunch we go to another interesting place nearby – Pumapunku – open air museum of the stone monoliths (one piece stones). Some of them have about hundreds tones! With nowadays technologies we are not able to move such a massive rock! And what about their precise symmetric shapes? Used stones are the ones of the hardest material. With nowadays technologies we are not able to cut same shapes and we do have lasers, so how could they do it in a age with some basic tools? Scientists have no explanation for this… 

Goodbye La Paz

Afternoon we are back to La Paz, the bus is dropping us in the city center in front of the San Francisco Cathedral. I find the Bolivian capital a bit dirty and dangerous so we don’t really feel like exploring. To be honest, we want to use our hotel beds again and have some proper rest before our flight back to Europe with some short stopover in Colombian Medellín… But on the way back to hotel we are witnesses of some funny reality show. Twenty workers together with one crave are trying to move one simple hot dog stall from one side of the road to another and they almost totally damage it until the find out the proper way how to do it. Just tell me, how could the same rase build something like Tiahuanacu… 


People would say, it is a city of Pablo Escobar. But it is much more than that! It is a city of eternal spring for a pleasant weather all year long. It’s a city of green heigh hills, winding roads and passionate Colombian women.

Easter Island

Over eight hundred statues all over the tiny island where population most likely never exceeded couple of thousands! So who carved them? What purpose do they have? How did they find such a remote place somewhere in the middle of Pacific?


Ornate Spanish colonial architecture dripping with tropical flowers, the Palenqueras and Caribbean vibes are just a few reasons Cartagena de Indias is one of the most photographed cities in Colombia.

Zuzka Greizinger


I’m a stewardess, but I used to be an editor for a magazine, so I always have had my head in the clouds. In addition, I’ve always been attracted by the heights and distances and so I came up with a great idea – I could explore the world as a flight attendant! 🙂